Benedict states that ‘happy are they that hear their distractions and can put them to mending.’ Explore how ‘Much Ado’ About Nothing’ uses the comic genre to allow Shakespeare to expose and criticise Human Flaws.
When Benedict states that ‘happy are they that hear their distractions and can put them to mending’, he is stating that characters are able to recognise flaws within their own character and, more importantly, are able to fix them. One conventional aspect of Elizabethan society, that is very much evident within ‘Much Ado’ About Nothing’, is social inequality. “In Shakespeare’s play, women are portrayed as being powerless in their own lives and in everything around them.” In Elizabethan society, men were dominant over women and made all the important decisions. In ‘Much Ado’ About Nothing’, the men frequently make bad decisions, and is a recurring theme throughout the play. Although Shakespeare was a product of his time, and accepted social norms and values, he demonstrated an understanding of women’s subjection by men in his work. The comic genre allows Shakespeare to push the boundaries when challenging social conventions. For example, Shakespeare is able to portray Beatrice as a feisty, sharp, intelligent woman. The audience are naturally, more open-minded because they realise that the play is a comedy and they're suppose to find it funny. As a consequence, this gives Shakespeare more freedom to create comedy within the play.
In Shakespeare’s Much Ado’ About Nothing, Claudio is flawed character, although not appearing so initially: he is shown as a distinguished soldier under the command of Don Pedro, Prince of Arragon. In the first act, Claudio is introduced to the audience via a discussion between Leonato and a messenger in the presence of Leonato’s daughter, Hero, and his niece Beatrice, whereby the audience hear of Claudio’s heroism and admirability during the war and that Don Pedro regards him highly and has, “bestowed much honor” upon him. The messenger also suggests that Claudio has done tremendously well, as “He hath borne himself beyond the promise of his age”, suggesting Claudio is a mature character. The absence of Claudio from this scene means that the audience judge him based on what they have heard about him, as a consequence their first impression of Claudio is very positive. However, throughout the play the audience are introduced to his flaws of immaturity, haste and pride which all contradict with their first impression of him.
Although the audience’s introduction to Claudio suggests maturity, this is proven to be false throughout the play. In a discussion between Claudio and Benedick, Claudio recognises that falling in love too quickly is a mark of immaturity, concerned that “liking might too sudden seem”. However, after one silent get-together of characters, Claudio finds himself in love with Hero and immediately talks longing that, “Hero would be my wife”. Therefore, Claudio seems to do the exact opposite to the statement in the question and adopts a distraction that he has already heard, acting in a contradictory manner and emphasises his immaturity. As well as this, Claudio is gullible, and allows he to be deceived by Don John into believing that Don Pedro has wooed Hero for himself, “my brother is amorous on Hero, and hath withdrawn her father to break with him about it.” Through Shakespeare’s use of dramatic irony, the audience feel frustrated with Claudio, as he instantly believes this false allegation without question, “Tis certain so, the prince woos for himself”. Furthermore, Claudio lacks the courage to confront Don Pedro about the allegation, hence choosing to blindly believe Don John over Don Pedro and Benedick, without seeking the truth, “Ho now you strike like the blind man.” The audience feel frustrated because they know that Don Pedro is innocent, however they can't pass this information onto Claudio and are forced to watch the consequences unfold. Additionally, the audience feel frustrated with Claudio because it doesn’t seem likely that Don Pedro would betray Claudio due to the fact they have fought alongside each other at war and share a good relationship. However, the audience can sympathise with Claudio because his encounter with Don John at the masked ball was a setup in order to trick him. Due to the theme of the ball, whereby everyone had to wear masks and conceal their identity, Claudio thought that by pretending to be Benedick, he could deceive Don John and Borachio. By way of contrast, the opposite happens as Claudio believes that Don John thinks he is speaking with Benedick, “Are not you Signor Benedick”, “You know me well, I am he”. As a consequence, Don John finds it much easier to deceive Claudio.